STAFFORD – The public is responding with strong emotions to a post on the township Police Department’s Facebook page, about a controversial plan in which its officers will enforce that high-end cars parked in their jurisdiction are secure overnight.
If the doors of a luxury vehicle are unlocked, the officer will knock on the car owner’s door — according to the post — which had attracted almost 400 comments and shared on social media at least 250 times as of late Tuesday night.
“For the next several weeks, Stafford Police will be checking high-end cars in the area during the evening and overnight hours,” the post read. “If a car is found to be unlocked or with a key fob inside, we will be knocking on citizens’ doors to notify them of their unsecured vehicle.”
The statement was posted at 12:36 p.m. Tuesday. An addendum in the form of a comment from the Police Department was included at 3:28 p.m. Tuesday, that read: “While our post is clearly controversial, we will stand behind doing EVERYTHING in our power to serve and protect the citizens of Stafford Township. This includes getting our ‘lock your vehicle’ message out to residents through both social media and traditional formats, as well as thinking out of the box with our most recent proactive approach of checking vehicles. While this method does take time from our patrol officers, it does not compare to the time and resources that it takes to fully investigate each and every motor vehicle theft and vehicle burglary that occurs. High-end vehicles are our main focus, because high-end vehicles have been the main target of motor vehicle thefts in our area. Our main objective, again, is to serve and protect our residents. As always, we appreciate your support and any assistance from the public with getting our #9PMRoutine messages out. Thank you!”
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The response from the public was mixed.
“So you will be searching my property without my permission and without a search warrant?” asked a poster who identified himself as Adam Malinowski. “What if you see something illegal in an unlocked car?”
“Exactly,” replied poster Anthony Ragucci in response to Malinowski’s comment. “Cop or not, open my car without cause and I’ll make sure you get charged. This is out of hand.”
“Considering that it’s the high end cars that are being stolen it makes sense to me,” replied poster Rita Marino Oates. “I’m not the least bit insulted, owning an old Chevy. If the police didn’t do anything about this issue, some of you would say ‘what are they doing about this?’ Can’t have it both ways.”
“Unbelievable that people have so much to say,” wrote poster Carolyn Fay. “Why not thank the police for doing this. I’m sure officers don’t appreciate getting in and out of vehicles to check your car so it doesn’t get stolen. Has nothing to do with who has more money than anyone else. They just know what vehicles are being targeted! Thank you to our police departments!”
“Love Stafford PD…..it’s a nice and well-intentioned idea, but this is an overreach,” wrote a poster identified as Jim Smith. “People should be responsible for their own stuff.”
“Right, but who is responsible when a thief kills someone racing away with this car?” asked poster Richard Zellmer in response to Smith’s comment. “The thieves also being successful here means they will keep coming back here.”
Last month, the driver of a vehicle reported stolen from Long Beach Island after an overnight car theft suffered minor injuries after a dramatic crash near the entrance to the Route 72 causeway.
A ring of luxury car thefts has plagued Monmouth County’s upscale neighborhoods for the past few years — as electronic keyless ignition systems have become the automotive industry standard. The thefts are now gaining greater traction in Ocean County. The thieves, who are often brazen, will even — when intercepted — lead police on a chase for miles, putting lives in danger.
The crimes are often perpetrated under the cover of darkness after the owners of the vehicles have retired for the evening, but who have left their key fobs inside their vehicles, either intentionally for convenience or because they simply forgot to remove them.
A spokesman for Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer, the county’s chief law enforcement executive, did not immediately respond to a late night request for comment about the municipal police department’s initiative on Tuesday.
Erik Larsen: 732-682-9359 or [email protected]